India have skill to bounce back
Pitch reading is an art and like most forms of art, it has been mastered by very few. A minimum of 300 was what was predicted for India once Dhoni had won the toss at Vadodora. They didn't even reach the halfway mark. And I am not so sure it was it the surface that was to blame for that.
We did manage to bat for nearly 40 overs, so had the pitch been suspect, it would have worsened in the Australian chase.
It’s just that our batsmen were caught napping by the quicks. Hurt undoubtedly by their wayward performance at Chandigarh, the Aussie bowlers were spot on from ball one on Thursday. I didn’t expect anything less from such a champion side.
It seemed a completely different set of bowlers and sadly so did our batsmen, most of whom were unrecognizable from the previous game.
That it wasn't a bad surface was proved by Sachin, who played some glorious strokes on the rise even as his colleagues fell one by one.
That it wasn't a 300-run pitch either was shown by the manner in which Brett Lee dismissed a set Sachin.
The ball moved away just a shade even in the bowler's second spell.
No placid wicket would have allowed for such movement but more than the wicket, it was the areas that the ball was pitched in that made all the difference. Mitchell Johnson got the ball to move both ways and when a bowler manages to do that, it is never easy.
The one thing that I liked about the Indian performance was the manner in which they took the field to defend their low score. Using a spinner to open the bowling is not an innovation but that they showed they fully believed the improbable could be achieved. At least they were willing to try anything and everything and that is a positive sign. It shows Dhoni is responding differently to different situations. He is also experiencing the ups and downs in quick time and he will be a better man as long he continues to think positively.
Looking ahead, the trick now lies in following Dhoni's post-match advice of forgetting about the Vadodara match. The series cannot be won, it can yet be saved.
That's what the Indians must now concentrate on. If the Aussie bowlers can come back so strongly after one bad day, so too can our batsmen. It is crunch time and the Indians have done well in the past in such situations. It will be great should they come back from here.
It will not be easy, though. Australia are never easy opposition and certainly not at the business end of a series.
They didn’t stroll to victory at Vadodora and looked to undermine the confidence of Murali Kartik by going after him.
The Australians always plan ahead and therein lies their greatness.